It’s the morning after the night before and English hearts are both full to bursting and strangely drained. The dream is over; the pride lingers.
So near – and yet, so far. Life gets back to normal, routine kicks in; it-could-happen fades into what might have been.
In years to come, reflecting on the golden early days of this summer won’t quite conjure the hazy glow of an improbable hope come true, but might still evoke the quietly pleased feeling of a good job well done.
Across the country, in market squares and commuter towns, sleepy villages, bustling quaysides, high streets, back alleys, the suburbs and the city centres, this is the mood of England today.
‘Sharing the wins and losses’
Burton-upon-Trent is the home of the England team – its St George’s Park base opening in 2012, so here, people feel attached to a squad who train down the road.
In a town famous for its brewing, spirits that are high, despite the grey and overcast morning.
Tony Lampitt and wife Sharon have run Tony’s Butchers for 24 years and say they’ve never seen a summer like it.
At the family business adorned in England bunting, there’s been a bumper barbecue trade – and it’s not just the till that’s been buzzing.
“The atmosphere is lifted, people are just happier,” says Tony.
“It’s taken things like Brexit off my mind and has given us something to talk about rather than politics. I can speak to customers about the football, and even if they don’t like it they will give you an opinion – everyone’s a critic.”
But has he served any players?
“They don’t pop in, unless they are coming in disguise. They’d get a free burger if they did.”
Outside The Lord Burton pub is David Gibbs – he’s waiting for his cup of tea.
He saw England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford play for Burton Albion – this morning he sees a united country.
“We all came together to support our team. It’s all nationalities, all religions together – we are all there and all sharing the wins and losses together.”
‘It’s brought the “great” back’
A neon-bright tourist resort renowned for its night-time revelry, Newquay in Cornwall hosted an animated football crowd or two.
This morning, the sky is a brilliant blue, the town waking to its stunning backdrop of a vast sea.
Fishermen say that whenever England scored in the tournament, cheers from the seaside pubs echoed across the steep cliffs, almost shaking the sandy coves.
Boat trip organiser Chris Lowe says excited customers brought “a real buzz” aboard his craft recently.
“Very, very disappointed for England of course – gutted. They have done extremely well though and it has brought the ‘great’ back into Great Britain,” he says.
Julie Fillingham moved to Newquay from Wigan to run a guesthouse. She’s out with her dog Boo and described the mood as “solemn” after last night’s match.
“The first half was really good to watch… but in the second half I felt very let down.
“We would have liked to have seen the final and had something to look forward to – but life’s not that bad, especially living down here. We’ll probably go out instead.”
‘Everyone was happy’
The streets of Derby are waking up after England’s defeat last night. Most shops are still closed but it’s getting busier with workers and students.
A couple of St George’s flags can be seen still hanging in windows.
Elisha Nyakabau stopped off at a Greggs on his way to work as a bus driver. On match-days he and his colleagues were allowed to wear England shirts.
“There is football fever everywhere. Even on my bus I could feel it – the difference was, everyone was happy.”
This spread of good feeling was also noticed by bank worker Cara-Leigh Lloyd: “Even the customers coming in seem chilled out – you can feel the excitement.
“Everyone was in good spirits, lots of houses and cars had flags on and kids were playing football with their England shirts on.
“There is a sense of pride again, along with the sadness, this morning.”
‘No black or white, no religion’
Sheffield’s fanzone in Devonshire Green was packed with thousands of hopeful, briefly joyous but ultimately heartbroken football fans.
The big screen has come down and piles of empty cans, pizza boxes and broken bottles are all that remain of the World Cup roadshow.
Despite defeat, there is a feeling among people walking to work that the team has helped restore national pride.
“Nobody expected us to do as well as we did, to almost reach the final,” says Chris Wilson, who watched last night’s game at home with his wife and son.
“I felt it was quite phenomenal, actually. I’ve watched World Cup matches before but I’ve never really got into it like this; I don’t think many people have.
“There was something like 5,000 people out here last night, but while they are sat watching they are all the same: there’s no black or white, no religion; everyone is just sat feeling the same.
“Hopefully, that can continue and this will keep a smile on people’s faces for a while.”
‘It is the first time I have seen such happiness’
One of the few England flags still hanging in the breeze in Colchester’s town centre is outside the shop of Samad Nejad.
The 43-year-old Iranian immigrant said he had not experienced anything like the euphoria created by Gareth Southgate’s team since moving to the country in 2002.
“It is the first time I have seen that much happiness,” he says.
“For the Sweden game I went out on my own and everybody was so happy, so excited. Everyone knows something if you are talking about football.
“I asked my brother in Iran and he said no-one had followed the football that closely because there is so much else going on. Here it has been completely different.”
Mr Nejad says all the schoolchildren had been coming in talking about Harry Kane and his team-mates.
“Because they are young it helps you connect.
“When I put the flags up people asked me why; they said I would just be disappointed again but they have done very well.
“I think it will be good for the country – it has certainly been good for the economy, with people spending, but it has also created happiness which is something money can’t buy.”
‘They lifted our souls’
The rain during the morning rush hour in Bristol reflected the change in football fortune.
As people travelled to work it was heads down and headphones on, but there was clearly one thing on their mind.
Working at Bristol Children’s Hospital has taught Anne O’Reilly a thing or two about heartbreak.
So while she was upset to see England bow out on Wednesday night, her memories of the tournament will be the camaraderie it inspired.
“I went to a pub for the Sweden game and it was amazing.
“Everybody was singing the national anthem. Everybody was talking with each other and passionate about their country.
“Everybody was putting their arms around each other and jumping around.
“I really felt proud to be English.”
‘Football has the power to lift people’s spirits’
The tower of the Church of St Mary the Virgin looms above the small picturesque village of Wheatley, nestled among rolling hills five miles east of Oxford.
Theresa May got married here, and her father, the Reverend Hubert Brasier, served as vicar from 1970 until his death in 1981. But people here have been glad to have a distraction from talk of the prime minister.
In Cornfield Bakery – a family business that’s been here since 1972 – Geoff Coleman is taking a selection of treats out of the ovens.
“I haven’t really got my emotions together yet, to be honest. I’m gutted. It really was a game of two halves. Overall, Croatia deserved victory but we were close.
“Football has the power to lift people’s spirits but then it dumps them back down again, that’s the problem.”
Next door is Crick’s Butchers. “There’s a lot of doom and gloom at the minute so it’s been really good,” says Nicky Robinson who runs the shop with her husband, Jason.
“It’s brought a lot of people together with a good atmosphere.
“It’s been a bit like a New Year’s Eve when everybody’s in a good mood and they’re jolly… people have been talking more. It’s been nice.”
‘Every round was a bonus’
The streets of Brixton bustle under a blanket of grey cloud.
Street cleaners sweep up discarded beer cans and plastic cups in front of The Ritzy cinema, which is advertising a screening of last night’s match.
As commuters stream to the Tube trains and buses, traders set up their stalls along Electric Avenue.
Fruit seller Harriet Hunter has a line of England flags above her produce.
“We’re keeping them up till Sunday”, she says.
While she’s disappointed Croatia won, she remains proud of what England’s players achieved.
“I didn’t expect them to get as far as they did. Every round felt like a bonus.”
‘A right to be proud’
Cloud and drizzle cloaks Birkenhead this morning but that hasn’t dampened the pride felt by the town in an England team that “so exceeded expectations”.
“There’s been an absolute buzz,” says Andy Porter as he set up his market stall. “It’s brought young and old together – and was positive for a change.”
He’s selling his England merchandise at knock-down price today, but says he’s “made up” such a young team made it so far.
“With all the bad news over the last few months – Russia, Brexit, moor fires – this is great for England,” he said, summing up the mood in the town.
The streets were particularly quiet – perhaps a slow start after a stressful evening.
But chatter among the market traders could be heard above the seagulls squawking overhead: “Disappointed but they gave it their best shot”; “Heartbreaking but they did so well”.
Kevin Goodman thinks the wave of feeling that took over here will carry on.
“It was like a ghost town when they played because everyone was watching… there were flags out on all the houses,” he said.
“It brought a bit of patriotism back.”